Barbican Krakow

The Ultimate Guide to the Barbican Krakow

The Barbican Krakow is an amazing 15th century fortress and a must-see remainder of the ancient city walls. This guide has all you need...

The Barbican, Krakow, is one of the iconic sites found in the Planty Park just outside of the Old Town of Krakow. It’s a regular addition to walking tours of the UNESCO area, and one of the must-see sights for military history buffs. This guide has all you need to know…

This awe-inspiring, circular fortress hails from the late 15th-century and once stood as a formidable bulwark of defence, guarding the entrance to the medieval city. The Barbican’s thick, red-brick walls boast a whopping seven turrets, each with their own fascinating history and purpose. It’s easy to imagine the brave soldiers who once patrolled these walls, keeping a watchful eye for potential invaders.

This guide is just one part of our total guide to things to see in Krakow and things to see in the Krakow Old Town

Where is the Barbican?

The Barbican is on the northern end of the Krakow Old Town. It’s actually just a few steps beyond St. Florian’s Gate, another of the main draws in this UNESCO-designated part of the city. These days, the Barbican is a standalone fort in the middle of the Planty Park. That’s actually a key fact to remember when it comes to location, because the Planty used to be the city walls that encircled medieval Krakow.

How to get to the Barbican, Krakow?

Walk! Seriously, the vast majority of travelers shouldn’t find it too much of a chore to walk to this historic keep on the side of the Old Town. It’s a mere two minutes’ stroll up Florianska Street – the main shopping drag that comes north off the Main Square – and only a few steps from the central bus station to boot. More enticingly, as we’ve already mentioned, the Barbican is in the middle of the Planty. We can’t recommend walking the whole circumference of that enough – it’s a real joy!

If it’s cold or you aren’t in for a walk, then you can hitch a tram – get out at Teatr Słowackiego, which is right next to the Barbican – or go in a taxi/Uber (the closest drop off point is at the end of Szpitalnia street).

What is the Barbican?

The Barbican in Kraków, known as “Barbakan Krakowski” in Polish, is a historic circular fortress that once played a crucial role in the city’s defences. Constructed in 1498, the Barbican is an outstanding example of medieval military architecture and is one of the last remaining structures of its kind in Europe.

To put it in simple terms: The Barbican is one downright cool castle!

The history of the Barbican

Barbican from the front

The Barbican was constructed between 1498 and 1499, during a period of heightened political tension and conflict in Europe. The fortress was designed to strengthen the city’s defences in response to the growing threat posed by the Ottoman Empire and other potential adversaries. In fact, the building’s design was inspired by similar structures in the Middle East.

The Barbican played a crucial role in the military history of Krakow. The most notable momet was surely an engagement that occurred during the Siege of Krakow in 1528, when the fortress successfully repelled an attack by the Ottoman Empire. The Barbican’s imposing structure and strategic location enabled the city’s defenders to fend off the invaders and keep everyone within the walls safe.

By the early 19th century, the need for extensive city walls and fortifications had diminished. Much of Kraków’s defensive structures were dismantled to make way for urban expansion and modernization. However, the Barbican, St. Florian’s Gate, and a stretch of the original city walls were spared from demolition, in part due to their historical significance and architectural value. These were duly incorporated into the surrounding Planty Park.

The unique design of the Barbican, Krakow

The Barbican fortress is characterized by its red brick walls, seven turrets, and a surrounding moat. The walls measure up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) in thickness, and the overall diameter of the structure spans 24.4 meters (80 feet). The Barbican was equipped with 130 embrasures, or openings in the walls, designed for archers and the use of firearms. This innovative design combined traditional fortification techniques with adaptations for emerging weapons technology.

You can still see many of the arrow shooting holes, though some have now been blocked up. We’d recommend walking a loop around the structure to spot the ones that remain and appreciate the spiked turrets in all their glory.

The Barbican today

Nowadays, the Barbican is more a place of fascination and wonder rather than battle and strife. As you venture inside this historical marvel, you’ll be greeted with a charming courtyard, where you can almost hear the echoes of ancient footsteps. The site also houses an exhibition showcasing medieval weapons, armour, and other artifacts.

In the summer months, the courtyard comes alive with theatrical performances and concerts, a delightful setting for an evening’s entertainment. We’ve seen all sorts on the stage – from Shakespeare to spoken word poetry. The line-up of gigs changes year on year, so check ahead and book tickets if there’s anything that takes your fancy (there’s not all that much space in this playhouse, so tickets will sell fast).

Asia K
Asia K

Asia K (the surname is long, unspellable, and very Polish!) is a Krakow native. She lived and worked in the city her whole life before heading off to travel the world. Today, she comes to Krakow as a regular visitor, which is just what's needed to put together expert guides for fly-in visitors and weekend breakers. She's an avid hiker (hello Tatra Mountains) and loves craft beer (mmm Kazimierz)

Articles: 89

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *